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Fate Won't Guide The Way

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'Was it... worth it?'

Henry shivered and looked down. Sparking spine, his arm non-functional and... oh blood there too. Reaching out for a nearby branch he grit his teeth determined to make it as far from the ship as he could. There had to be something more.

The thief bit his lip as his shaky legs and slow progress left him alone with his thoughts. Were there any survivors? Would they care? Should he have gone back? He thought he had done an okay job of leading, surely some of the Toppats had liked him?

Blinking wearily Henry decided to sit down and lay against a rock. This wasn't what he wanted. Had the last few years been nothing but a waste if this was how it was going to end for him?

Absently looking down again he rested his hand against the hole in his chest. It wasn't hurting anymore, and he was starting to feel cold despite being the hot jungle midday. Letting the hand fall back to the ground Henry sighed as he leaned his head back. He could still see smoke in the distance.

Was it worth it?

No.

Anger distantly flooded through him drowning other tangled feelings clawing through his mind. Henry Stickmin was meant for more. Not as a failed Toppat leader betrayed by his second in command, left for dead, and then returned to take down the entire gang. He was going to be history textbook great. Best thief in the world who carried out impossible heists single handedly?

The smoke in the distance grew darker.

His eyes began to water, from smoke, from anger, from the whole mess that was going to be the end Henry grit his teeth.

"No."

Something in his chest felt like it was rupturing.

He wasn't going to close his eyes.

~*~*~

Bright light and the angry alarm clock jolted Henry up in bed. Squinting he snatched the alarm clock and turned it off in a hiss. Blinking a few times before wiping at his eyes the thief growled. He should really look into those gradual light alarms, who knew a space station would mess with everyone's circadian rhythm so much?

Falling back to bed the thief stared at the clock in his hands. He had to get up, he had things to do.

Turning to glace out the window a small smile crept up on his face. It never got old seeing so many stars so clearly when he wasn't in a rush. Slinking out of bed Henry absently noted he missed breakfast and sighed. Must have hit snooze a few too many times, but he was up in time for his meeting.

Making himself presentable the thief took a couple moments to appreciate the monitor showing a few large gems. Keeping the Tunisian Diamond next to the other large gemstones in the vault always was a great start to the morning. The light was just right, they sparkled fiercely.

Money was one thing, but gems were his biggest weakness. Just... they twinkled asking to be admired. The bigger they were, the more light they caught, the glitter couldn't obscure the jewel beneath it.

Smiling Henry reached for the final touch, his own hat. It was unremarkable top hat, but the gold chain let everyone know his rank. Nodding to himself in approval the thief walked out of his quarters and down the hall. It was nice having his office and the main meeting room nearby, just like he had drawn up in the plans.

If he was going to make a spaceship of course he'd make it convenient for himself. Must remember to order a light alarm for himself.

Popping into his office Henry wasn't surprised to see Reginald already sitting in front of his desk. What was surprising was the plate of glorious breakfast food and the smaller pile of paperwork. Seriously who knew being Toppat leader would mean so much paperwork. There were mountains. Ellie elbowing him one day and talking about some delegation had genius (but not her, no way boss).

"You could have waited, I know you just got back from a heist yesterday." Reginald absently waved a hand to even turning around.

Walking over Henry snatched a piece of toast and stuffed the whole thing in his mouth. Wheat bread, but it was a fancy jelly that was... apricot? Humming happily he sat down in his seat. Was that... waffles? It had been waffle morning? Yes!

Reginald looked up from the small stack of papers in front of him and glanced at his leader demolishing the plate. Snorting at the obvious glee from the small gesture he sorted the paperwork back to their proper stacks. Clasping his hands he leaned back into his chair and waited for his boss to finish. Doing paperwork during a meeting with the chief wasn't proper, and Reginald Copperbottom was a proper sort of gentleman thief.

After waffles there had been sausage, hash browns and even a hard boiled egg. Shooting his subordinate a thumbs up Henry pushed the empty plate to the side of his desk and sighed. Now he wouldn't have to go slinking to the cafeteria after this! That was... wait he had still had paperwork after this. Cleverly efficient move to keep him trapped then, should have expected it.

Reginald watched his boss's content expression morph to annoyance and smirked. Looks like he'd been caught, but it was too late to escape now.

Humming softly Henry drummed his fingers for a few moments thinking of how he was going to proceed. Better to just blunder through quickly and he took a deep breath.

"Ship wide announcement tomorrow."

"Yes. Everyone is going to be there." Reginald shrugged, "Everyone is curious." Full attendance was rarely required, and for the earthbound there would be a live broadcast. No exceptions, everyone was goin to see. This would be big whatever it was. It was a couple weeks off, but it had been almost a whole year since they had launched up here and remained gloriously unchallenged.

"Wanted to give you time to prepare." Henry leaned forward and put his hat down in the middle of the desk. "Plan to resign, Ellie coming with me." Pushing his hat away from himself towards the other he glanced up waiting.

It took a moment to process.

"Oh. No Henry no." Reginald jerked both hands and away from the offered hat. "You c- did you need a break? You have been busy." Glancing up at his boss nervously he searched the other's normally expressive face.

"Peaceful transition, endorsed." Henry propped his head on his hand scrutinizing his subordinate. This wasn't quite what he expected as a response. "Time to think for speech."

He was serious. He was actually serious? He was actually serious. Oh god he was serious. Reginald tried swallow the knot of panic in his throat and think quickly. "Maybe short a vacation? Few months off? I know it can be stressful leading."

Bemused now Henry shook his head. Wouldn't his third in command to loved to be back at the top?

"Henry please," Reginald threw out both hands towards the room and looked up at the ceiling, "This station was your idea." Frowning he let his hands drop and looked at his boss again. "We wouldn't have been able to launch if not for you."

He his gaze drop to the offered hat and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Nor fend off the surprise government attack with such minimal losses. You've been the best Toppat leader we've had in a long time."

"...even me." deep shaky breath later Reginald risked looking up at his boss and pushed the hat back with an unsteady hand. "Part of leading is knowing when there is someone more qualified and when to cede. Don't go. I want to see where you'll take the clan."

Henry was sure he left his jaw on the floor somewhere. How could he respond to that? Reaching back to scratch the back of his head Henry felt himself flush. He had actually won the other man's respect during the launch? It hadn't been a ploy to put him at ease and try to retake leadership later? This made things even harder, but maybe if he explained.

"There is something I have to try. Someone I want to recruit." Henry reached out and picked up his hat. "It might backfire, I didn't want the clan to get caught in it." Turning the hat over the heavy gold chain winked at him.

"Then, at least let us look at the problem first. The Toppat clan is strong, you should know better than to write us all off first." Reginald leapt on the chance

Sighing Henry put the hat down and rubbed at an eye. This fully went sideways from how he had expected, but he couldn't find it in him to be upset. Instead the leader nodded and put his hat back on. It couldn't hurt to try. It was kind of... nice. When Ellie got back later today he'd have to tell her.

A few moments passed before Reginald reached out to start more paperwork. The crinkle of paper and occasional penscratch were the only noises. It was boring busy work but the distraction would help calm him down. Nurse his injured pride back up to standards, he didn't want to measure himself up to their leader.

Henry sighed and grabbed some of the work. He didn't think he could muster up any words right now and sitting in an awkward silence made his skin crawl. He wasn't sure how long it took for the atmosphere to relax back to a familiar normal.

"I... hope you have a back up announcement for the meeting?"

The Toppat chief froze. Oh he hadn't thought about that. Grimacing Henry thunked his head down on the desk. Big meeting with nothing to say? Public speaking was already hard, but up in front of the entire clan with nothing to say? Expectant faces? Could he just shoot finger guns at everyone and smile? Maybe carry those prompt cards they use on TV?

"Early one year anniversary since launch?" Reginald offered.

"Mmhmmm." Lifting his head to nod Henry bit back a yawn. This was a bit much for the morning and he was tired again. Well now his whole day plans were ruined if he was staying. The wasn't much he could do until he got to talk to Ellie. Might as well have all four of them to run through everything.

Tapping on the desk until he had the other man's attention he held up two fingers then waved his right hand.

"Yes when the Right Hands are back I'll make sure they check in with you." Reginald nodded. Finger pointed at him too? "I'll be there too." Okay signal. Pleased at his ever improving deciphering skills he went back to work.

Sauntering over to the couch Henry sprawled out and blinked up. Might as well nap until then. He really had earned his place here if his offer had been declined so quickly. Tilting his hat to cover his eyes the thief smiled at the small revelation.

"...thanks."

"Don't mention it chief."